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Opinion

October 24, 2012

Our View: Breast cancer can be defeated

Those pink ribbons you’ve seen on the front page in recent weeks signify that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 225,000 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. It also estimates that nearly 40,000 women will die from the disease.

The good news, though, is that a breast cancer diagnosis is not a death sentence.

The cancer society estimates that as of January 2008, some 2.6 million women with a history of breast cancer were living in the United States. And the great news is that most of those women were cancer free.

There is no sure way to prevent breast cancer, but there are some tips you can follow to decrease your odds:

• Maintain a healthy weight. Balance your calorie intake with physical activity, and avoid excessive weight gain. If you are overweight, take steps to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

• Adopt a physically active lifestyle. Adults should engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise on five or more days a week. Children and adolescents should engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day.

• Eat a healthy diet with an emphasis on plant sources. Eat five or more servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. Choose whole grains over processed grains, and limit your intake of processed and red meats.

• Limit your intake of alcoholic beverages. No more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.

Early detection saves lives.

Yearly mammograms are recommended starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health. Women in their 20s and 30s should get a clinical breast exam about every 3 years.

Experts suggest that women become familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel and report any change promptly to their health care provider. Breast self-exam is an option for women starting in their 20s.

Less than 2 percent of women, because of their family history, a genetic tendency or certain other factors, should be screened with MRI in addition to mammograms. If you’re not sure whether you fall in that group, talk to your doctor about your history.

You can beat breast cancer. Learn the steps you need to take and take them.

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